Until You Do Right By Me

Have you ever cursed somebody? I’m not talking about calling them names and using profane language. I am talking about cursing the ground they walk on or wishing they would grow a third eye or hoping their children are born with flat feet or something along those line. I have wished a many of things on people over the years. Some of you may say, “I would never curse anyone!” Well, maybe you give underhanded blessings. I sure hope the Lord blesses you with a child who acts just like you or God will surely give them what they deserve.

One of my favorite movies is The Color Purple. If you have ever seen it then you know the scene where Ms. Celie curses Mister. She told him, “Until you do right by me everything you think about is gonna crumble!” That’s deep. If you want to see the clip, play the video below.

If I were to curse somebody today I would say something like, may you end up spending years in family court with an attorney who has questionable ethics never files anything on time charges you exorbitant fees per hour and insists on making unnecessary calls charging in 15 minute increments even if they only called some random person and left them a 30 second voicemail and wastes valuable meeting time drawing a court room on the whiteboard and telling you about their jazz band while charging those excessive fees then recommends an expensive and unnecessary expert to testify at your hearing then charges you for trips to the court-house including travel and those ridiculous fees even though they could file paperwork online and only charge you for 15 minutes instead of 3 hours!

Our legal system makes me weary. Everything in America is regulated and has a ridiculous amount of over site except for the legal system. They graduate from law school, take the bar exam, get some CEUs under their belt,  start a practice then charge $250 and up PER HOUR. But they are kind enough to charge you in 15 minute increments. Oohhhh they also require a down payment for their services. They don’t call it a down payment but it is. I know, I know they are in law school for several years studying torts and whatnot so they’ve earned the right to charge hundreds of dollars in fees.

In my quest to find an attorney in ten days to provide a response to the legal notice I was served, I asked several friends for references. One friend of a friend offered me their discounted rate of $650 per hour. What?!? I went with a firm that had been labeled the Cadillac of law firms. Well, I wanted someone really good. I didn’t want to make the mistake I had made with my divorce attorney who made lots of mistakes and could be credited with my current situation for leaving out important verbiage in my divorce decree. I ended up with a Geo Metro pretending to be a Cadillac. The office was swanky, I met one of the partners who was impressive as well as knowledgable and very polished. They said I would be represented by the firm not just one person. They failed to mention the charge I would incur if any of them so much as looked at my file. The person they assigned to me and I parted ways three months and several thousand dollars later after I questioned excessive billing and did some minor research to see he charged me for a trip to the court-house when he was there for another case. What he did for me could have been handled by a phone call. Let the online records search at your local county court-house be your friend. You are able to search records by party or attorney. (You’re welcome)

The whole process is a waste of time, money and effort. Why clear the court’s dockets of cases that could be handled in mediation? I mean why would we want to use the courts’ resources to process criminal cases faster when you can take up valuable time with family law cases? The way my county works is if you can’t successfully negotiate between the attorney you go to mediation then the case comes before the judge when you’ve exhausted those options. But you spend months attending hearings and waiting on the attorney to discuss your demands or wants or points of contention. Remember they are charging you $250+ for these conversations between you, the other attorney, court clerks, paralegals and whoever else they can add to the monthly billing. Unless you are able to locate someone who charges a set fee to handle your case you could rack up thousands and thousands of dollars in fees. I don’t know about you but I don’t have thousands and thousands of dollars to spare.

You wanna hear my suggestions? Go to mediation first. Skip all the other nonsense and use a reputable mediator to help resolve the issue. The drawback? The attorneys don’t line their pockets at your expense and they might be able to help more people cause they aren’t spending a year or three on one case.

One year, two attorneys, a social study, mediation and I don’t know how many court dates later, it’s still not officially over. But we are close. I hope.

Happy Anniversary to Me

It has been a long time since I’ve written anything. The weeds had taken over my site and caution or wisdom or fear has taken over my creativity. But I’m back.

I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been gone. Some things I’ll talk about in the weeks to come.

There are certain events that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I remember the birth of each of my children. I remember my three graduations. I completed my masters degree in August. I remember making the drill team in high school and crossing over in my sorority. I remember my wedding day and looking into the eyes of my friends and family as I walked down the stairs. But today I celebrate the day my divorce was finalized.

It wasn’t actually on this day, it was March 18, 2010.

After two years of going to court, arguing at home (we lived in the same house during those two years) and trying to keep it together for the kids, my life changed for what I consider the best half decade of my life.

Happy fifth anniversary to me.

A life time of things can happen in five years. It wasn’t easy. I cried a lot in the beginning. Divorce is like a death. It was the death of dream, a hope, a promise and so many other things. I mourned my past, my current and my future. It was life altering to say the least.

My days and nights are completely different than they were before the divorce. My prayer was to make it through the day with out a major or even minor argument. I lived in self-doubt and solitude. Nobody knew the depth of my sorrows. I hid it quite well. I’m sure my eyes told the story and the smile that never found its way to my lips spoke loud and clear.

But today, I’m celebrating. I’m not having anything formal or doing anything special but in my heart I’m celebrating. I’m celebrating the new me. I didn’t get plastic surgery or buy the Jaguar I’ve always wanted but I have more peace than I’ve ever had. When I say ever, I mean ever. I work for a great company. I have wonderful supportive family and friends and the loves of my life are healthy, growing and thriving. What else is there? 

I wake up in the morning expecting to have a great day and go to bed thankful. 

Happy anniversary to me!

15 Steps to Slowly and Torturously End a Relationship

My confession for today is I like to read. I read a lot of books and online articles. Every week there is a new article listing 6, 8, 10 or 15 steps to a successful relationship. They all list the same basic concepts like communicate, set aside alone time and keep the intimacy going. With the divorce rate being what it is and people in relationships not following all the wonderful advice readily available then perhaps they don’t want healthy relationships. Maybe they really want to practice a mild form of legal torture. If that’s the case, I’m here to assist you in your quest.

Any and all of these should work to drive a wedge between you and your partner. After doing these things continuously you should be able to end your relationship. Maybe.

1.) Be inconsiderate- show up late from work, miss the family get togethers, forget birthdays and anniversaries, throw your clothes on the floor, spill sticky things and don’t wipe them up. If they like going out to dinner, movies, horse races or traveling don’t do those activities with them. Refuse to watch their favorite TV show with them. If you do decided to participate in their favorite activities, consistently use your mobile devices and act annoyed.

2.) Withhold affection- the human touch brings about a chain of positive chemical reactions. Deny that special person any form of contact especially intimacy.

3.) While you are withholding affection you may as well withhold intimacy. That will definitely teach them a lesson or two. Treat this one like holding your breath, let’s see how long you can go before you pass out.

4.) Cheat- since you are withholding affection and not being intimate you may as well cheat. Don’t make it too obvious and don’t hide it too well. The point of these steps is to slowly end the relationship. When you get caught you have two options, blame or apologize. Blame the other person and tell them it’s their fault if they had just done or not done whatever then you would not have cheated. The other option is to apologize then keep cheating and keep getting caught.

5.) Stop communicating effectively- do not respond to text messages, don’t return phone calls, remain silent at dinner, and give short answers or very long answers, depending on the settings, to questions. Oh, keep telling that same story over and over and over again.

6.) Spend too much money- buy something elaborate with the money that’s being set aside for something else. Want some new golf clubs, spa day, poker night, a trip somewhere? Start marking things off of your bucket list.

7.) Complain then complain some more. No examples required…

8.) When you purchase gifts make sure it’s something they will hate or resent. One lady I know received a big screen TV for Mother’s Day. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Her husband placed it in his man cave. Besides, she asked for a camera. If the gift is for a female purchase a clothing item that’s two sizes too small. Then, give a blank stare when the complaining starts. For that guy in your life, buy him tickets to something you know he’d hate but his mother or better yet your mother would love then set up the date. You can go to the spa while they are gone.

9.) Never have alone time- make sure you always have company over or pack your schedules with activities. At the end of the long exhausting day, put your pet or your child in the bed with you. This would also be a good time to tell that story again.

10.) Do not keep your word- remember the title of this  promises 15 steps? Well I’m only giving you 10. Feel free to change your mind at the last minute.

11.) I left off one- no, it’s not be inconsistent or flakey it’s don’t show up for court dates and quibble over every detail of the divorce decree. When your partner finally decides they have had enough, make leaving torture.

What it boils down to

How many times have you heard the phrase, what it boils down to? I cook and watch my fair share of cooking shows. What it boils down to is what’s left when the liquids are removed or greatly reduced by cooking them out. Think of cooking rice or making a sauce. What’s left in the pot at the end of the process?

I had the opportunity to speak with another mom recently who had a marriage similar to mine and whose husband fit the description of mine. We have been divorced about the same amount of time as well. As a matter of fact 3/18 is my 4th anniversary. The way custody worked out this year, our ex husbands had the children for spring break. I took the time to refresh myself by sleeping, reading and sleeping some more. I would often sit without tv or music playing. The noise level for the Fantastic4 can get pretty high. I learned to let go of any anxiety and enjoy the time. She spent the time being distraught and stressed.

When I spoke with her yesterday she commented several times how difficult it was to have her children gone for so long. I get it, mine are gone as well. I listened. I let her vent. I let her cry. Then I said to her, what this boils down to is your trust in God. Either you trust him or you don’t. Once you make that decision then you move forward with your actions.

If you don’t trust or believe in him then your next action is to find the strength within to make some changes. She had already said she was weak. Then find the strength using outside sources. However, one of the things she told me is she is a Christian. If that’s true then she has put her trust in him.

I’m not saying trusting a being that you can’t see is easy. No, I’m not saying that at all. But if you decided to trust and believe then trust and believe.

When I was going through my time of adjusting to my babies spending a week or even a month with their dad, I was anxious and nervous. I had been a stay at home mom and the primary caretaker for the kids. I prepared 99% of all their meals and I was the person who did all the housework. He had never taken all four kids out of the house at the same time. How was this ever going to work? They needed me. I admit I didn’t sleep well initially. I was anxious. I was fearful. I had vented to friends. Then finally I said (interpret, cried out) to God, I know you love these children more than I ever could. Please, protect and provide for them while they are out of my care and out of my sight. Letting go isn’t always easy. I don’t have a five or ten step plan that I can outline for you. I know part of the process is surrendering your thoughts and trusting things will work out for good. Its realizing you can’t control or maniputlate the situation. It’s believing good things will come. I guess I had a three step plan.

When it boiled down to it, my faith and trust in God is what was left. It’s not an easy process for some of us. But eventually after you’ve done all you can, when you’ve prayed, cried, worried, lost sleep, sought professional help, vented to friends; you stand. Stand on your faith. Trust God. He cares for you. Everything may not look the way we want it to all the time. Living in a state of despair, if you’re a Christian, boils down to a lack of trust. Even in the midst of the pain and despair, trust him.

If you’re not a Christian and you’ve continued to read, believe things will get better, make things better, change your actions and your thoughts. I believe it all boils down to the same thing.

Courage, Redemption, Grace & Mercy (part 1)

As I’ve previously stated, I don’t typically use my blog as a forum to discuss my divorce or previous marriage. On the rare occasion that I do, I will speak MY truth. He has his version, the Fantistic 4 will have theirs and I, the person holding the pen, have mine. Since this is my blog, you will read my version as lived from my perspective.
This is a three-part post, I reserve the right to add more as needed.

Courage

I was a stay at home mom. I was laid off from work while I was on maternity leave. I worked part-time about half the time to keep my skills current and to add a small amount of income to our very tight budget. I can’t tell you how many people were surprised by my decision. I was told I was wasting my degree. But it was the right one for us and I have zero regrets. Leaving the workplace and depending solely on your spouse to support you is an act of faith. Is comparing it to sky diving a little extreme?

I won’t go into the details but I will say things were rocky from the beginning. As the years progressed and three more babies came the rocks went from pebbles to boulders. We went to counseling and I prayed for my marriage. We received some good as well as some questionable advice, doctrine and guidance. The good was good but the bad was bad. One thing that really sticks out to me is being told he was the priest of our home and blah blah blah blah. I stopped slowly listening at priest. Let me say this, I refuse to bash “the church” or its misguided representatives. The people who counseled us were trying to help us. They loved us and didn’t want to see our marriage dissolve. I will ask, where does the Bible say the husband is the priest of the home? Please don’t give me weak implication or your broad interpretation. I was reading the OT to the 4 last night. We read the part about when the lineage of priests was established and the tabernacle was built. I could be wrong but every husband is not a descendant of Aaron. Besides, if you read NT the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies was torn. This established our ability to have a one on one relationship with God instead of the priest representing us. Now where was I?

There are a few things that happened that gave me the courage I needed to begin the mental process of divorcing my husband.

We had a friend of the teenager over for dinner. After we blessed our food, we all began to eat in silence. This had slowly become the norm in our home. The friend asked the question, “why don’t you talk during dinner?” I lifted my head to look around the table and all of the children had their heads down with sullen looks on their faces. That question created an eye opening moment for me to begin looking at all the places where we no longer had joy and laughter.

I started updating my resume and mentally considering single life with four young kids. At the time they were around 1, 2, 5 and 8.

The second incident occurred at a local water park. My mommy friends and I would buy season passes and take our children to this water park multiple times a week. It gave us a much needed break and lots of time with each other. On one of these excursions I spent some time with another friend who told me she was going through a divorce. That was quite the shock for me as I had always seen her and her ex as a good example of a married couple. You never really know what goes on when the door is closed and the blinds are shut. When I listened to her story, I knew I would survive. Her concerns were different but the same. She had been a stay at home mom for many years and had real concerns about finances. She hadn’t completed her college degree but She didn’t need a degree to walk in her calling and giftings one being a fabulous photographer. I spoke with her often. She gave me hope and courage.

I went to a birthday party one January many years ago. The guest of honor and I went for coffee afterwards. I was watching the clock because I knew the ex would get upset if I was out too late. I was suffocating under a blanket of control but didn’t realize it at the time. After a short conversation, she was able to assess my situation and knew I needed to get out. I don’t know what tipped her off or if she was just that tuned in. I may have said, “he won’t allow…” one too many times. She talked to me that night and when I left, I was building up the courage to take the next step to leave.

I received a phone call a day or two later from a woman who is highly regarded in my circle of friends. After hearing about my marital situation from that friend, she told me I needed to leave. I didn’t have a full-time job yet and I was uncertain. But after talking it over with my sister-in-law, she graciously opened her home to us so I could leave. The husband of the birthday girl came over after my ex left for work and helped me pack a few things and I left. That was almost six years ago.

Courage.
For me it was a series of events that lead me away from a bad marriage but left me at the doorstep of redemption.

Oh my gosh!! If I see another post on Facebook about what a real man will do, I might just scream. Have you seen them? A real man will: change, love you better, not do this or become that. So many women jump on the “what a real man will do” train and give virtual high fives to author of the posts. I question personally whether or not the author’s of the post have ever met a “real man”.

Perhaps I’m hypersensitive because I have three real men in the making in my household. Here is my list of things that will increase the probability of you or your daughter getting a “real man”.

1. Take a spiritual, emotional, physical and mental inventory of yourself. Where are you hurting? What is lacking in your own life? Where does your healing need to occur? What kind of wife, friend or mother of his children will you become?

2. Ask yourself why would you consider being with a man who needs to change? I know everybody has room to change but why would you knowingly enter into a relationship with a man who has a long list of things you think he should change? I can hear you saying, I just want him to stop cheating, drinking, smoking, cursing, hitting me, doing drugs, calling me names, divorce his wife, pray more, dress differently, rub my feet daily, give me money, get or keep a job and start going to church. What’s wrong with that? I can’t say anything is wrong with it on the surface but go back to #1 and ask yourself why are you dating the type of man who doesn’t currently meet your standards and you might find the real change should occur in you. (side note, if you don’t have any standards go back to # 1 and create some when you are done with your inventory)

3. Stop giving ultimatums.Who decided it was a good idea to give ultimatums? Let’s take a quick poll, how many of you stuck to the action you threatened to take if he did not change? How many ultimatums have you given? When are you going to actually leave or stop tolerating the rest of the things that are on your list?

4. Ask yourself, what do I bringing to the table? I mean that literally and figuratively. I have a young male relative who is in his 20’s. A female asked him his name and he asked her if she could fry chicken. I laughed out loud when first heard about that conversation. He refused to give her his name if she couldn’t fry chicken. I know some of you are rolling your eyes and shaking your head but I’m giving him a fist bump because he has requirements and isn’t willing to compromise, give ultimatums or enter a relationship that doesn’t meet his expectations. What are you offering other than your body and the privilege of being in your presence? I am not just taking about material possessions.

5. Are you willing to change? Are you willing to become the person he needs so he will want to come home and love being there? Are you ready to stop complaining, nagging, manipulating and whining? Are you willing to cook, be his friend and not his mother, compliment and encourage him?

6. Be patient. Desperation doesn’t look good on anybody. I know you are ready to find Mr. Right and begin a life with him. He’s looking for you.  Keep doing #1 until he finds you.

My ex and I are doing the very best we can to raise men who will become good husbands. I am sure a woman will come along some day and tell them all the things they need to change. I will be there to tell them, if she can’t accept who you are today she is going to make you miserable tomorrow.

Looking for Mr. Real Man

Lessons I’ve learned since the divorce

I’ve been divorced for almost four years now. In that time I’ve done a lot of soul-searching, reviewing my choices, and thinking about my life then and now. Every story has a few authors. My failed marriage will be authored by him, the kids and me. Since this is my blog and I hold the pen, you will receive my version. Now, this post is not about my marriage per se but more about the lessons I’ve learned. I’m a contemplator so I’ve thought about this, I’m a woman so I’ve discussed this, I’m a believer so I’ve prayed about this and I’m a student so I’ve studied this.

I try my best to speak well of my ex in front of our children. He is the father of our four beautiful children. If I can’t think of anything positive to say, I revert back to the old teaching and say nothing at all. If out of anger or frustration I say something and the kids are around, I apologize to them. They love their dad and I want to provide an environment where respect, love and honor are encouraged (insert required). Vent to your journal, counselor, friends, coworkers, bartenders, clergy or even the person sitting next to you on your commute but not your children. Besides, the more time you spend talking about people you are mad at, the less time you have to do something positive. There are only 24 hours in a day. How many will you spend on negativity? That was my first lesson.

Respect is not earned it’s given. I’m reading a book titled, Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. A couple of months after my divorce was final I attended a marriage conference at my church. I truly believe that if we had attended this conference or read this book before we got married or early on then a lot of the decisions, thoughts and actions would have been different. When you know better you do better, right? Society has taught us that love is the key to relationships. We freely provide all the love one needs. However, we are also taught that respect is earned. That is simply not true. Respect should be given as freely as love. Men want and need to be respected. I know some of the women reading this are about to tune me out. Keep reading! Don’t start listing all the reasons he doesn’t deserve your respect. Think about this, what if in the heat of a discussion with your man he turns to you and says, I respect you but you will have to earn my love. Pump the breaks! What? Think about the number of times you’ve used the opposite phrase, I love you but you will have to earn my respect. It has the same devastating affect on them. Respect is not earned just like love is not earned. I didn’t know. I was having a discussion (argument) with the ex one day and he said the first time he called me a horrible name was right after I told him he was not a good provider. When he called me that name that was the ultimate in disrespect and zero love in my mind. It was the same for him only I couldn’t see that. He worked long hours so I could stay home with the kids. We struggled financially at times but he was trying. When I told him he was a terrible provider I’m sure he saw me as ungrateful and disrespecting. I didn’t know better at the time but now I do. I’m very conscientious to acknowledge anything anybody does for me. I’ve shared these principles with women who have come my way wanting to discuss divorce. I always ask, are you showing him respect? If not, try this…and I provide examples of what respect looks like, according to the book, to a man. That was lesson two.

I am not superwoman or every woman. I love the songs but in real life, I need help. I don’t allow my pride or ego to keep me from receiving or asking for help. A few months ago I was taking the Stud Muffin and Little Dude to their athletic games. I drove two blocks and realized I had a flat tire. I turned around and went back home. Apparently a neighbor saw the flat and pointed it out to her husband. He jumped in his truck came to my house and filled my tire with enough air so I could get the tire repaired. In the mean time I called their dad who met me at the tire repair shop so he could take the boys to their games. I have roadside assistance because I, quite frankly, don’t know how to change a tire. I could have told the neighbor I didn’t need his assistance and the boys could have missed their games so I could keep my independence or pride. Whatever! Those action do not bear good fruit. Asking for and accepting help takes more inner strength than not. The boys saw this neighbor helping their mother, they saw their mother receiving assistance and they saw their dad and mom working together for their benefit. That’s good fruit and lesson three.

Dating post divorce with young kids is doable but should be done with caution and wisdom. I’ve mentioned online dating in some previous posts. I met and dated another guy but that didn’t work out either. I realize that I want a relationship. After all, we were created for relationship. But I don’t want to date a lot of men. When I say date I really mean date as in go to a location such as movie, restaurant or hear a band play. I don’t bring strangers to my house and they don’t get to meet my children. I am a mother bear when it comes to my children and our home. When I created a profile for the online dating site, I used a completely different city in a different county. I also always meet at a crowded place and made sure to never drive straight home. I would stop and park at several places and take a back road home to ensure I was not being followed. A healthy amount of paranoia is okay. I have a friend that would only date her now husband if they had a chaperone. They were both divorced and had children but they were determined to have a courtship and keep to themselves until they were married. Determine your dating requirements and stick to them. That concludes lesson four.

I have also come to realize I have the capacity to trust again. Do not take that lightly. Trust is difficult when you have experienced heartbreak and when people have disappointed you. I have a cousin who taught me a valuable lesson years ago about trust. It was Mother’s Day and right after church service the family members were all discussing where they wanted to eat. I looked over and this cousin was standing to the side not voicing her opinion. Her husband was a part of the discussion. I walked over and asked her why she wasn’t giving her input. She said, “I trust my husband. He’s not going to take me anywhere I don’t want to go.” Whoa… what?!? I was reminding her of that conversation yesterday and she said, “where ever he goes is where I want to be.” Hhhhmmm. I like it! There is nothing wrong with having an opinion and there is nothing wrong with expressing your preference. The topic here is about trust. Focus on the trust she was exhibiting in him. One couple I know, when they first started dating, would order dinner for each other. This was their way of getting to know each other and building a foundation of trust. Trust is a small word but has a huge impact. Lesson five.

I have lots of other lessons that I’ve learned along this journey to healing but I will save those for another day. Spend some time contemplating these five.

Be well, healthy and whole.